Among the arguments President Vladimir Putin offered against Western military intervention in Syria in his recent New York Times op-ed was "deep concern" over the "hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia" currently fighting in the war-torn country.
"Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria?" Putin asked.
A senior Russian official confirmed that hundreds of Russian mercenaries are thought to be fighting in Syria and echoed the president's concerns in an interview with Interfax on Friday.
"Recruitment of mercenaries really does happen. We think that around 300 to 400 people from the territory of our country went [to Syria]. They will return, and, naturally, this poses a major danger," Sergei Smirnov, first deputy director of the Federal Security Service, said.
The Russian legal system has no precise guidelines for stopping mercenary activities, Smirnov told reporters while attending a Yaroslavl meeting of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, a division of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Although there was no formal discussion concerning mercenaries at the RATS meeting, Smirnov said that the different security officials acknowledged that the issue is one their countries share.
The rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime are thought to come from a large collection of the region's countries. Earlier this year USA Today reported that Saudi Arabia offered over 1,200 death row inmates the choice between execution and being sent to join the fight in Syria.
Read more: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/fsb-official-says-hundreds-of-russians-fighting-in-syria/486402.html#ixzz2faJkuIr2
The Moscow Times